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BEST cup of coffee in the Twin Cities??

  • m

and let's EXclude starbucks, caribou and dunn bros.

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    Arthur Latz-Hall

    The Bean Factory on Randolph in St. Paul gets my vote.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Arthur Latz-Hall

      I'd second the Bean Factory vote. Especially if you get something from the "brew bar" - where they'll serve up an individually drip-brewed cup of whatever bean you want.

      1. re: diesel

        Minnehaha Coffee on 46th and Minnehaha uses Alterra beans
        (a Milwaukee roaster) and serves Boars Head meats in their sandwiches. It is an old Phillips 66 gas station building that has been renovated. The owner is installing an outdoor grill in their back patio area.

        Their espresso is as good as it gets in this town, IMHO.

        1. re: diesel

          Third vote for Bean Factory on Randolph; try a cup of the Double Dark.

      2. I'd have to vote for Ginkgo on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, and a newly opened little shop in my neighborhood called Java Train on Pascal St.

        There are lots of coffee shops out there that serve pretty poor coffee, IMNSHO.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Rowdy

          Where on Pascal is Java Train located?

          1. re: diesel

            I'm not sure of the exact address, but it's at Midway Parkway and Pascal, just up a little bit on the left. Midway Parkway goes right off Snelling at the main entrance into the State Fair, and Pascal is just about 3 blocks east of Snelling.

            Hope that helps. It's a good place to take kids too, as there's a little play area.

            1. re: Rowdy

              Thats called Java Train (in Como Park. well, not in the park but in the neighborhood)

              --but YUCK!

              Cute atmosphere, terrible coffee, drab baked goods, dinsinterested help, high prices.

              I keep going there because our kids have fun, but I'll stop as soon as I can!!

              1. re: eatoatmeal

                Ya know, I'd have to agree with you now. My current favorite is Bean Factory at Thomas and Hamline in St. Paul. It's far superior to Java train, and even Ginkgo.

                And you're spot on about the other aspects of Java Train too.

                1. re: eatoatmeal

                  Oh no! I'm so disappointed to hear that about Java Train. I just uncovered it about a month ago and had been curious. It looks like such a cute, neighborhoody place from the outside, I had high hopes. Oh well.


            2. re: Rowdy

              Java Train is quite overpriced and the times Ive been there Ive had to explain the most basic of drinks to them. Seriously, not good. Cute space but annoying owners who also don't like lingering.

              Gingko is OK with nice folk music and hit or miss coffee depending on whos working.

              Dunn Bros on Grand is the original and not part of the chain, their barristas are a far better and its not fair to lump them with the franchises, but the place is usually packed with wifi squatters so no room.

              Bean Factory is in a class by itself--oustanding!

            3. Why exclude Dunn Bros? They do roast their beans on the premises and imo that makes a big difference. They're uneven but the Dunn Bros on Hennepin & 34th is excellent and ditto the one in Linden Hills.

              Betsy's on Nicollet & 54th is very good.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Plautus

                I agree, I love Dunn Bros. Their coffee is fresh and most are locally owned.. The hennepin and 34th is great, as well as the Anoka Dunn bros!

                1. re: michelleallen

                  I will also step up and ask "Why not Dunn Bros.?" They brew a wonderfully rich cup of coffee with tons of flavor, not overbrewed crap like Starbucks or weak flavorless junk like Caribou, and even with being a chain, they are held to pretty strict standards. I once sat through a coffee seminar with Ed Dunn and he is so knowledgeable but also very, very precise about how it's done. I know it will never disappoint.

                2. re: Plautus

                  why exclude Dunn Bros? Their beans might be roasted well but I've yet to meet a barista at any Dunn Bros location who can make a proper shot, let alone make the microfoam necessary for a good cappuccino. yes I'm snobby.

                3. Try Coffee Creek at Highway 7 and Hopkins Cross Road in Hopkins in the same strip center as Lunds. They are an independent under new ownership of a mother/daughter team competing with both Starbucks and Caribou at the same intersection. They specialize in organic coffee, Wicked Good Coffee, and Soy based coffee.

                  Support the independents!

                  1. The Specialty Coffee Association of America has awarded several Twin Cities Indy Coffeehouses a Golden Cup Award. Which means they brew exceptional coffee. They use the right amount of coffee to water, the right grind, fresh beans, have the right H2o filters.

                    Here are some of the winners
                    Tillie's Bean S. Mpls
                    The Bean Scene (multiple winner)N. Mpls
                    Gigi's S.Mpls
                    Luna Blue Rogers
                    Amore Coffee St. Paul
                    Cahoots St. Paul
                    Boulevard Coffee, St. Francis
                    Central Perk, Anoka
                    Clicquot Club Cafe S. Mpls

                    1. I'm not enough of a coffee fiend to have a reliable opinion, but Kopplin's in St. Paul on Hamline at Randolph has been getting a lot of buzz (no pun intended) lately. Here's teamkitty's recent'ish post about her visit:



                      1. I like Coffee News on Grand west of Snelling, but I can't say it's a matter of superior coffee as much as it's a combination of a never-disappointing cup of coffee and a nice environment, some good real food (not just sandwiches and all the cake you can stand), and a Macalester College vibe to the place.

                        I've liked Gingko when I've gone there, though it's been a while.

                        1. No one in the Cities comes close to Kopplin's. Lots of places make a decent cup of Joe, but Kopplin's is really the only boutique coffee shop in the cities.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: misterpatrick

                            I agree-- Kopplin's makes the best coffee and espresso beverages I've ever had in my 10 years in the cities. I make a special trip there at least twice a week for a cappuccino, even though the Bean Factory, the Grand Ave Dunn's, Amore Coffee and, Coffee News are all closer to my house. The attention to quality and detail is just head and shoulders above the rest.

                            I do wish Kopplin's were open later in the evening (they close at 6 on weekdays). I asked the owner if they were planning to expand hours, and he said perhaps in the summer.

                          2. Cup of coffee could connote (aliteration) a plain old brewed cup. There's french press, various pour over brewing apparati, fancy schmancy one cup at a time brewing equipment (Kopplins has Clover equipment - a Seattle based company), cold extraction, and espresso.

                            Having been known to go off the deep end on this topic, I'd say Coffee and Tea in Linden Hills, and Kopplin have the highest quality approaches, but they're quite different. Both emphasize really carefully sourced beans. Jim at CAT roasts his own since the 70's. Andrew at KOP sources his roasted product off site. CAT does pour over brewing single cups, and they've got a big espresso rig. KOP has a couple Clover machines, and a Synesso. CAT is old school. KOP is state of the art. Hands down the milk handling at KOP is the best in the TC's, although Black Sheep in South St. Paul (also Synesso equipped) does some pretty beautiful milk work.

                            Pour over and Clover coffee tastes different and IMO better because it's fresh, and you get the whole brew in a single cup as opposed to pulling off the bottom of a big old urn of sludge.

                            Espresso is tastier for the same reason (freshness and whole pour), but can easily be screwed up by an unskilled barrista. The grind has to be adjusted daily and by the bean batch to yield the best product. Measurement and compaction have to be completely standardized to yield a consistant product. Milk handling is everything in terms of delivering the crema to your palate. Frequently the steam pitcher is not used to the extent that it can be to yield ultra fine foam, and silky smoothness (regardless of milk fat percentage). Most coffee places including franchise operations and natiional chains remain clueless when it comes to this part of the espresso trade. A big bubbled pile of foam tastes inferior to the real product - the Italian way where the machine and methods were invented. Adding flavoring elements and other blech is untrue to form, but this is the land of the brave. There's also the service element and cleanliness factors. The core truth is that if you get used to enjoying your drink (while sitting down) in a ceramic cup, all you'll ever taste out of a paper cup is paper.

                            In the U.S. more people dose their way through the day as a substitute for decent sleep and nutrition than in other cultures. This is from the perspective of a recently tapered coffee addict. I brew one or two small espresso drinks a day using CAT beans and a lever action home machine/burr grinder combo. Gone are the days of 4 - 6 drinks. On to green tea....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                              I just "discovered" Coffee and Tea Ltd a couple of days ago. This is the most authentic coffee store I've ever been in. There are burlap bags of unroasted coffee beans strewn all over the floor. There is a coffee bean roaster in the window that looks like it came from the 1960's. Jim was there supervising the roasting and tending to the store. After a brief introduction, Jim suggested to me his "5star French roast" ($15.99 a lb), and while he weighed out my order, I noticed glass jars of roasted beans on the counter for a range of prices from $15.99 a lb - $460 a lb (or $10 for an 8 oz cup)! While I was recovering from that, my daughter ordered a cafe au lait (which was excellent). Jim told me that they roast 5-6 days a week in small batches.

                              WHen I got my beans home and opened the bag, they were quite fragrant and has an oily appearance. Since I'm not an expert on coffee beans, I thought that I read somewhere that if beans have an oily appearance, it means that they have been over roasted. Can someone comment whether that's true of not?

                              Coffee and Beans Ltd has a website: http://www.coffeeandtealtd.com/

                              This isn't the place for Starbucks ambience, but if you're interested in a "real" coffee store that roasts on the premises, and caters to the coffee lover, this is the place!

                              Coffee and Tea Ltd.
                              402 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                            2. Since this thread is back from the dead...

                              Without a doubt, the best in the TC area and one of the better in the country for coffee is Kopplins Coffee on Hamline in Saint Paul.

                              First and foremost they have a better trained staff than any other shop. That goes a long way in serving quality coffee.

                              As far as service/equipment, they have a two group Synesso Cyncra espresso machine, TWO Clover 1s machines (one of the few places in the country to have two, see www.cloverequipment.com for more), and also offer press pot coffee and tea. There are NO airpots, each coffee if prepared especially for the customer. This also means it can take a couple minutes to get your cup, but worth the wait.

                              All beans are ground just before using (ground by the shot) and any beans past peak (generally a week to 10 days) are no longer used.

                              As far as their coffee, they source it from the best roasters both locally and around the world. They often use Paradise Roasters (of Ramsey MN) beans who are very highly rating on the professional CoffeeReview.com site. Right now they are also using 49th Parallel of Vancouver BC who do a really nice "Epic" espresso blend.

                              There are several other good shops, but this is the best bar none.


                              Jeff Halvorson
                              Twin Cities Imbiber magazine.

                              Kopplin's Coffee
                              490 Hamline Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: TruthBrew

                                I stopped by Kopplins on Saturday after visiting the Nook for the first time, and didn't try it because I was too full, but I'm going to try to get there this coming weekend. I've also read that the Black Sheep Cafe is supposed to be good?

                                Black Sheep Coffee Cafe
                                705 Southview Blvd, South Saint Paul, MN 55075

                                1. re: bluesman13

                                  Yes, Black Sheep is also quite good and getting better all the time. It is more of a cafe with good coffee than a dedicated coffee shop.

                                  Peter Middlecamp, the owner, just competed in the United States Barista Competition in Los Angeles finishing in 6th place overall, unheard of for a first time competitor.

                                  If you want to read a bit more, I have a spotlight article about Black Sheep in the first issue of Twin Cities Imbiber.

                                  1. re: TruthBrew

                                    you are right about Kopplins. We lucked out and Andrew was there and I got to meet him and talk to him. He made me the best breve I've ever had. I'd much rather support a locally owned shop. After going there, there's really no turning back is there?

                                2. re: TruthBrew

                                  Black Sheep is a wonderful spot. Great coffee, food and atmosphere. Not much else in SSP but I would highly recommend Black Sheep.

                                3. I tried Koplins based on this thread and have now been there 3 times this week. No one else in town comes close to having as good espresso drinks. Now that I know about it I won't go elsewhere.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: stpaulbreadman

                                    I feel the same-- I work near DT Minneapolis and I used to stop at a Starbucks for a drink once a week or so before catching the bus home. Since becoming a Kopplin's convert, I can't bring myself to spend money at Starbucks knowing that I can get a far superior drink if I just wait a day or two and go to Kopplin's instead. I went to a well-regarded local coffee place last night for an iced americano and was horrified to find that the decaf espresso beans (it was late) came pre-ground out of a jar rather than being ground fresh. Kopplin's is bringing my coffee pickiness to new heights!

                                  2. White Rock Coffee on Cleveland & Ford Parkway in St. Paul is pretty awesome.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: amgarrison

                                      I'm sold. I need to try Kopplins - next stop this weekend. Though I don't believe that anyone mentioned it yet - I'm a fan of Zeno only because of the fact that they carry really really good french press. I'm a french press person myself.

                                      I will also say that in DT Minneapolis skyway system, there is a place called Pateen (and which I hope is not losing business to recent Caribou Coffee across from McKenna's). Pateen is in the Oracle/International Building heading toward the Hilton (2nd Av & 9th St skyway system) - I love her coffee (and she has AMAZING SCONES) because she offers non-traditional varietals that you cannot get at some of the other locations, i.e., Zimbabwe, Butterscotch and my personal favorite, Highlander Grogg. She has 6 different coffees per day and I like to support non-chain business.

                                      1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                        On the subject of Kopplin's, we went there yesterday and tried their special hot chocolate-- not the regular hot choc., but the stuff made from Rogue Chocolatier's locally produced chocolate. Wow. Amazing stuff. Barely even qualifies as sweet, so it's definitely not your regular hot chocolate, but amazingly complex and delicious.

                                        1. re: mtullius

                                          Oh, wow! I can't drink coffee, so I've never been to Kopplin's, but I *can* have hot chocolate. This stuff sounds like my kind of heaven. Thanks for posting this tip!


                                        2. re: snoboardbabe77

                                          Those scones are amazing. I used to work near there and would get a scone at least once a week and coffee almost every day. So good.

                                          1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                            Cafe Patteen is amazing. I just started working in the Campbell Mithun building, downtown Mpls in early February, and I discovered Patteen after a couple days on the job. I stop there every day now, fantastic coffee and like you said, the most glorious scones I have ever had. If you haven't tried the quiche you NEED to try that too! I walk by a Starbucks, Dunn Brothers, and THREE Caribou's through the skyway to get my preferred cup of coffee.

                                        3. Another great little place on the west side of St. Paul is Jerabek's. It was featured in the Taste section of the Pioneer Press this week. I haven' been there for a couple of years now. New owners recently took over but would guess not much has changed.

                                          1. Some great coffee is served with breakfast at the Egg and I. The coffee at Mickey's on west 7th in Saint Paul is also very good (and fine mugs, too)! The coffee is not too bad at the Grandview Grill in St. Paul also. St. Paul's Day by Day cafe has great coffee too. I'm not sure what coffee they brew at any of these places, but it's worth the free refills!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: mahlerii

                                              wait-- did the egg & i change their coffee? they used to have the worst coffee in msp, tasteless & weak. . . weird choice for a breakfast place, & one that made us steer clear of them!

                                              for "rocket fuel" coffee (press pot) i'm putting a shout-out for the hard times. the coffee comes in small cups because that's all you need. . .

                                              1. re: mahlerii

                                                Day By Day advertises that they serve Dunn Bros coffee.

                                              2. I like to stop at this little place on the East side of St. Paul, called Polly's Coffee Cove. I happened to see it on a Friday after school ended and I was caught behind a school bus going North on Payne Ave near Cottage. The bus had it's lighted stop sign on so long that I noticed Polly's on the corner of Cottage and Payne Avenues. They serve Peace Coffee, Bridgeman's ice cream, a few snack sandwiches and old time bottled pop like Bubble Up. On Weekends they have BBQ ribs while they last. There is a knit club run by a guy! and a neighborhood action group that meets there on Saturday mornings. Seems very warm and comfortable, and like every coffee shop they have Wi-Fi.

                                                1. I'm a vagabond. I spend my days in retirement driving to different towns, different coffee shops. I may put 200 miles a day on, going to coffee shops with friends. That said, I found one I really enjoy in my beloved St.Paul, MN. Polly's Coffee Cove, on Payne Avenue. It's low key, homey atmosphere, friendly folks having coffee everyday, and a place I look forward to coming back to when I' in town. Good coffee, pleasant families, and it's in a residential area. Sitting outside sunning myself in summer months, is just fun. I enjoy it more than any corporate cookie cutter coffee shop, or snobby shop on Grand Avenue. I like good, clean, simple coffee experiences. Polly's offers it to me. Thanks, Jim

                                                  Polly's Coffee Cove
                                                  1382 Payne Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55130

                                                  1. A new entrant into the competition is Bull Run Roasting Company in Uptown - they share a retail space with Rustica, one of the twin Cities' top bakeries, on the other end of the strip mall that houses Burger Jones. It just opened in the past month or so. Their website lists the brands of their roasters, grinders, etc. so I guess they're serious. All I know is that it's good stuff.

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: mesafoodie

                                                      All I know is that they have quite an attitude there. I stopped in right after they opened and ordered 2 espressos to go. After going to pick up my beverages, I was told that they would not make an espresso to go because it is only good for 90 seconds or so after pressing. I was told that they'd make an Americano but that that was my only choice. I don't know why anyone would think that adding hot water to espresso could improve it in any way, but I was told that was my only option. Regardless of the validity of the barrista's claim about the life of an espresso, it was an offputting move to pull especially when you're trying to get new customers. I had my reasons to buy a shot to go - bringing it home to my better half - and I should be the one to make the call.

                                                      I may be back to check it out again, now that perhaps they've gotten their sea legs. But my nose is completely out of joint about the place.

                                                      1. re: bob s

                                                        That's a policy, not an attitude. What happens if you take your espresso home, and the wife thinks it isn't any good? You come to this board and say the place can't make an espresso.

                                                        I think any food establishment should have the right to some sort of control over how their end product is consumed. They don't want lousy espresso out there under their brand.

                                                        1. re: kevin47

                                                          Normally I agree with u Kevin47, but here I think I have to disagree. It sounds like Bob S has brought back plenty of espressos to said wifey and she obviously hasn't really complained? But in attempting to gain new customers, I think that more "attitude" than policy-cuz let's be frank, if policy dictated that-then I would argue that no place would let a jucy lucy or their fries leave their establishment b/c by the time I got it home (even if I lived around the block), the fries aren't as good -but I'm not going to blame say, The Nook, Blue Door, whatever for that; I'd realize what happened in the minutes between my box being picked up and my arrival at my place. If that were true, Connie's Creamy Cone shouldn't let me take a shake or their version of the blizzard home, even though I'm less than 2 minutes away because it won't be nearly as good as it is the moment it comes out of the little red and white window- I'm just saying, if Bob S. is willing to pay his $ for his 90-second past excellente espresso, then that is what the establishment should give him. Refusing to give him something that they offer to make on their menu seems really out of whack ---

                                                          1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                                            I understand your point, but Bull Run is part of new breed of coffee shop that veritably fetishizes the making of espresso. It is incumbent upon them to deliver a taste experience you can't get anywhere else. You wouldn't ask La Belle Vie for the tasting menu to go, and if you did, you wouldn't get it.

                                                            Is this approach to espresso reasonable? I'm not the one to ask. Years of quaffing caramelly sludge in poorly-lit rooms furnished via a Dickensian garage sale have jaundiced me on coffee snobbery. But I have the feeling that Bull Run is not the only shop that won't serve an espresso to go, and I am certain there are some espresso fans who will passionately defend that choice.

                                                            1. re: kevin47

                                                              And LOL Kevin, I understand ur point. I guess it's just one of those things. But still, if someone IS so passionate about espresso and the 90 second rule, and they still want it (truthfully, I absolutely love coffee and I would actually choose my own french press to Kopplin's any day), they should be able to get it-perhaps with the not-so-attitude, full knowledge-based answer of : I will do this, but as a specialty, you know it won't be what it should be 90 seconds after it's done. Ya know? I mean, (names are escaping me, I can see their faces), chefs at Heartland and Strip Club have said in interviews that they seriously scoff at "taking good steak and cooking it well done-but hey, if you want it that way, I'll make it your way" ...

                                                              1. re: kevin47

                                                                I understand your point to some extent, but had you been there at the time, you would have agreed that it was definitely attitude. First of all, when I placed the order no one said anything. I chalk that up to opening day jitters and/or miscommunication.

                                                                But more importantly, I don't believe that the barrista's optic nerves survived the eyeroll he gave me. Nor did I deserve the sangfroid that I received in tone - you'd have thought I had asked him to brew up some Sanka for me.

                                                                I knew going in what Bull Run is. I've run across Greg Hoyt in other contexts and know his passion. (And I'm not directing my comment directly at him.) If they've got a 90-second rule, so be it. But they lost the opportunity to deal with the problem constructively. No offer of a refund, no attempt to change things to make it better - other than to throw hot water at the brew.

                                                                I'll go back again sometime and order something where I"m not racing the clock - obviously not an espresso because I may not be able to get it down in the appropriate time. But they've lost one customer already (my wife) and may have lost me as well. Regardless of whether the rule is right or wrong - it's bad for business to turn a customer off rather than try to instill the same passion for your product that you have.

                                                                1. re: bob s

                                                                  "Regardless of whether the rule is right or wrong - it's bad for business to turn a customer off rather than try to instill the same passion for your product that you have."

                                                                  Amen to that.

                                                                  1. re: bob s

                                                                    What you describe above is attitude, and is fair territory. It is also worth bringing to the manager.

                                                                    1. re: kevin47

                                                                      Caution - extreme point of view - coffee in a paper cup tastes like a paper cup. A proper coffee cup and the wisdom to slow down and breath for a few minutes is what this world needs. Hurdling down the road in your hybrid whatever is not remotely as satisfying, or safe as sitting down and savoring a fresh coffee and a moment in time. The Italians get this. Americans just want supersized and superfast. Bull Run is not trying to violate an American birthright, rather they're trying to change a perspective for the better.

                                                                      BTW an Americano has a chance at retaining the temperature necessary to open you palate and give you really great flavor, especially when compared to a luke warm to cold espresso shot.

                                                                      1. re: keg

                                                                        All well and good. But (a) sometimes an espresso brought home from a nearby coffee shop is the best you can do and is way better than nothing; and (b) there's a proper way of proselytizing and a bad way - and attitude is not the way to go. I'd much rather patronize a local place than CariBucks, especially one with better coffee - but if they can't help me take home a cuppajoe to my wife to brighten her morning, I'll go somewhere else.

                                                            2. re: bob s

                                                              Hmmm...do they also stopwatch their customers to ensure that they drink up within 90 seconds?

                                                          2. Hands down - Steamworks Coffee & Tea

                                                            North Mpls - 44th & Penn. They share a building with Victory 44. Locally owned & operated, great owners, great coffee, great waffles, great homemade scones and other baked goods. Check 'em out!

                                                            1. i'll add lori's coffee house at 1441 no. cleveland, st. paul across from the st. paul u of m campus. love funky individually owned places and i think their coffee is some of the best. friendly place and oh those cardamom iced cookies when they have them are such a treat with a cuppa joe there.

                                                              1. Sad to say this - had a horrible espresso at Kopplins. Cig water really. What happened here? Thought it was just mine; tried my companions - same. Hope it was a fluke.

                                                                Kopplin's Coffee
                                                                490 Hamline Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116

                                                                1. I love Alakef beans. For an actual coffee house, I like the people watching and atmosphere at Wilde Roast in NE Mpls. The BEST bean for home brewing is the Espresso Gold at Kitchen Window. Sometimes, the workers here...should find a career NOT customer service oriented. Plenty of times, I have also wasted that horrible Uptown drive only to find them out of this bean but it's really worth it.

                                                                  Kitchen Window
                                                                  3001 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                                                                  Wilde Roast Cafe
                                                                  518 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                                                                  1. WHAT about Swede Hollow Cafe? OMG their mochas are to DIE FOR! And their food! Oh! It is the highlight of having to live in Maplewood! ;)

                                                                    Seriously, it can get really crowded as it is tiny, so plan accordingly...in the winter, there are not always tables available. In the summer the patio is open. But it is the best coffee shop in St. Paul, in my opinion...and I also love Jerabeks and Black Sheep.

                                                                    Swede Hollow Cafe
                                                                    725 7th St E, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                                                                    1. Long thread, but to add my two cents - I make any excuse I can to get to Isles Bun and Coffee. Since we're just talking "cup of coffee" their Isles Blend brewed coffee is the best I've had in the Twin Cities. The baked goods are just a bonus.